Wednesday, November 07, 2018

The New South, Not Exactly

We're on to you, Joe Scarborough. Discussing the morning after election the narrow defeat of Democratic gubernatorial candidates Andrew Gillum in Florida and Stacey Abrams in Georgia,both black Democrats, the former GOP congressman from northern Florida remarked

As a son of the South, I can tell you it's very interesting when I went to bed last night and knew that Gillum had lost and knew that most likely Stacey Abrams was going to lose, I went to bed and "To Kill a Mockingbird" came a line that Finch said to his daughter after the jury came back and found him guilty of murder. He said "but they thought about it, just for a moment thought about acquitting him." 

Let me tell you, we talk about the New South. No, no, this is the new South when a black man and a black woman can come within an inch of being governor of these two states, a state of Florida that voted for George Wallace in the Democratic primaries in 1968, I think in '72, the state of Georgia with its history, it's amazing.

Despite being anti-Trump, and his lack of racism and sexism (mostly, anyway), Scarborough still is that GOP congressman from the part of Florida previously referred to as "southern Alabama" and still would be, were that not politically incorrect and considered gauche. (Political correctness is "the elevation of sensitivity over truth," Bill Maher has observed.) And the new South is still, at least in part, the old South.

Charlie Pierce, more diplomatically, said much the same thing when on Wednesday morning he explained that some offices

in south Florida that the Democrats were hoping to flip went to incumbents. Statewide, both Senator Bill Nelson and Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Andrew Gillum fell behind their Republican opponents at virtually the same time. Ron DeSantis literally had no platform and the apparently limitless bankroll of Rick Scott was all the Republicans had. And those things, coupled with the basic cussedness of the Florida electorate, gave the country another look at how scared and racist it really is in its forgotten places. I spent three spring trainings (sic) in Polk County, the Designer Mudflap Capital of the Western World, so I am not surprised in the least. 

Georgia's campaign was mucked up by voter suppression.It's not in every state that people are lopped off the voting rolls by the Secretary of State, who also, no doubt by the grace of God, was the gubernatorial nominee and who by that same grace, chose not to recuse himself from election-related matters.  Nonetheless, Oprah Winfrey in the campaign's final days, worked enthusiastically for Abrams, which folks assumed would help the Democrat. And blacks presumably would be energized by the realization that the Republican was doing all he could to prevent them from voting.

A complex state, Florida nonetheless had an uncomplicated race, one in which the charismatic Democratic nominee ran an inspired, effective campaign against a Republican who, when noting in August that Gillum would be his opponent, stated "The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up." This was less a dogwhistle than a bullhorn, as were the robocalls which were

narrated by someone pretending to be Gillum and using an exaggerated minstrel dialect with jungle noises in the background. The calls end with a disclaimer that they were funded by The Road to Power, an anti-Semitic, white supremacist website and podcast linked to Scott Rhodes of Sandpoint, Idaho.

Faced with the subtlety of a jackhammer, the voters responded. In a race some observers believed would feature Andrew Gillum dragging incumbent, lackluster US Senator Bill Nelson across the finish line, Nelson actually outperformed (however slightly) Gillum.  

Both fared only barely better than did Hillary Clinton in 2016, even though the out-party possesses the advantage in mid-term elections, there was no James Comey, and Gillum is very, very good.

Yet, though Joe Scarborough- and others- want to defend the South and suggest that it has gotten over its race problem, objective people know better. "I believe that the citizens and the residents of this state are going to send a very convincing message on November 6," Gillum had predicted. It wasn't the message he hoped for. 

Admittedly, this is not a problem exclusive of the South, and results in Florida and Georgia tell us a thing or two, if we'd but listen, about Hillary Clinton's national defeat in 2016 by Donald "oh, look at my African-American over here" Trump.  Wondrous are the forms taken by economic discontent. The South has changed, becoming much more modern and contemporary, in good ways and bad. (I always preferred this South, anyway. R.I.P.)

The Who once famously sang "meet the new boss,same as the old boss."  Some of us have been waiting decades for the new South to arrive. At least in the matter of America's original sin, the old boss turns out to be not much different than the old boss.

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